By Gillian Flynn
Updated December 27, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
Runaway: Brooke Palmer/The CW

Mark it. Less than 10 minutes into the second episode of The CW’s Runaway, you can actually watch the series turn from an entertaining drama of family dynamics into yet another overly complicated, run-in-place conspiracy thriller. (This fall season is thick with them, and I grow weary. So weary.) Donnie Wahlberg (Boomtown) plays a lawyer who goes on the lam with his wife (24‘s Leslie Hope) and three kids after being framed for murder. They move from the D.C. area to Iowa, assuming new identities, and, for a while, the idea of complete re-creation holds sway: Mom and Dad, playing small-town family folk, actually become more attentive parents than they were in their previous posh lives. Daughter Hannah/Kate (Sarah Ramos) imagines how a popular girl would act and lands, bewildered, in the cool clique. Ah, but then the moment: Standing in front of a wall covered with news clips and notes, Wahlberg circles the name Kensington and then draws ominous arrows to still more names. Suddenly we’ve veered into Prison Break territory, where we’re supposed to be dazzled by man’s need to scribble out even the most obvious of clues. Runaway turns dull whenever Wahlberg whips out his PDA or evades the supposedly crack team of police hunting him or (why, oh, why?) agrees to a mysterious Fugitive-style meeting at an awkward time on a Chicago subway train. Just two episodes in, and this series threatens to rattle down the wrong track.